Scott Shaw Hook Kick
Self-Defense: Finding the Opening

By Scott Shaw

When it comes to physical combat most people go at it with uncontrolled swinging fists and kicking legs. Even people who have rudimentarily trained in the fighting arts, many times, will quickly forget all that they have learned and simply try to survive the fight.

There is a small breed of people who actually like to fight. They enjoy the intended dominance over others and they may even like the pain of receiving the punch. This is a very small breed, however. These are people who live their life at a very animalistic level.

The fact of the matter is, mankind has not progressed very far in term of raising human consciousness over the past several millenniums. This, even though there are a fairly large number of people who focus their lives upon the spiritual aspects of existence. But, this has been the case forever. There have always been those whose minds veer towards the cosmic. The problem is, there are far more who focus upon conquest and dominance.

Though the spiritually inclined will deny this fact, at the root of mankind is violence — the overpowering of others to obtain what one wants. This is not right, nor is it the way it should be, but it is the way it is.

With this as a basis of understanding, we as martial arts must look to the refined realms of self-defense if we are ever drawn into a physical confrontation. Certainly there is the, “First-Strike, Best-Strike Philosophy.” But, more than simply hitting him before he hits you, you must refine your understanding of physical combat, as the First Strike Philosophy may not always be applicable. Therefore, you must refine your mental understandings if you hope to remain unscathed in a physical confrontation.

It is important to note, even if you are a highly trainer fighter, you can be defeated — as has been proven time and time again. For this reason, you must never simply assume you will emerge victorious in a fight simply because you are bigger than your opponent or more highly trained. Additionally, in a competition setting you may find yourself tantalizing the audience by going round-for-round and elongating the time in the ring. But, on the streets it should never be like that. A street fight is won or lost very quickly and if you toy with or underestimate your opponent you will sooner or later get hit and that hit may debilitate you. To this end, and to elevate all of the unnecessary punch-for-punch mentality of a street fight, a true martial artist seeks the best and most rapid way to penetrate their opponent’s defenses and defeat them.

One of the best ways to achieve this is to find an opening in your opponent’s defenses. Highly trained boxers are very good at this, they look for an opening and then BAM, they punch through that hole. In many traditional martial art systems the student is not trained to be aware of these openings in their opponent’s stances, however. They are simply taught to punch, kick, throw, and if they find themselves being punched or kicked at, to forcefully block that attack. Though this style of self-defense may work in certain circumstance, it may also prove to be a person’s demise. Thus, a true martial artist must always study their opponent and then strikeout in the most rapid and effective manner possible.

The fact is, a street fight takes place in a few moments. Therefore, a long process of studying your opponent is generally not possible as is the case in the ring. To this end, you need to develop your ability to rapidly assess your attacker and then deliver the most appropriate and devastating offense possible through the hole in the defenses. This is where opponent training and sparring in your school becomes essential. For in these controlled environments, once you have focused your understanding and know what you should be looking for, you can then develop the ability to see the opening and to rapidly penetrate your opponent’s defenses, delivering a powerful attack.

For each system of the fighting arts the students are trained in a specific format of techniques. Though in school practice some of them look very pretty, i.e., the throws of Hapkido and Aikido. In actual combat, however, these types of techniques virtually never work, as they are far too elaborate. To this end, it is very important that you do not fool yourself into believe that simply because your training partner allows you to throw him in the gym that on the street this same type of technique will be a viable method of self-defense.

It is a simply fact of combat, the fighting techniques that work best on the street are those that are very direct, very powerful, and very simple to unleash. Whether this is a straight punch, front kick, or joint lock the main thing to remember is that you want to see the opening and immediately strike through that opening. Don’t wait because in street combat those opening are only there for a moment and that chance may not present itself again.

When you find that opening on your opponent and strike one of the main things that you must keep in mind is that it may not be effective. Perhaps you did not strike hard enough, perhaps you opponent shifted his positing or moved, or perhaps your attack was blocked. The moment you realize that your attack was unsuccessful, you must immediately move and continue forward with additional defense, followed by offense. Never wait or you may not have the chance to relaunch your attack.

In the martial arts and, in fact, all fighting arts, the first thing the student must do is to master the techniques of the style they are studying. Once this has been accomplished you must then begin to study the movements of your opponent. For what is martial art training if it is not gaining the developed knowledge to emerge successful from physical combat. To this end, never see your techniques as the sole end in physical combat. Instead, see them as a means to strikeout if you are attacked — using them to penetrating the defenses of your opponent and emerge victorious from any confrontation. When it comes to physical combat most people go at it with uncontrolled swinging fists and kicking legs. Even people who have rudimentarily trained in the fighting arts, many times, will quickly forget all that they have learned and simply try to survive the fight.

There is a small breed of people who actually like to fight. They enjoy the intended dominance over others and they may even like the pain of receiving the punch. This is a very small breed, however. These are people who live their life at a very animalistic level.

The fact of the matter is, mankind has not progressed very far in term of raising human consciousness over the past several millenniums. This, even though there are a fairly large number of people who focus their lives upon the spiritual aspects of existence. But, this has been the case forever. There have always been those whose minds veer towards the cosmic. The problem is, there are far more who focus upon conquest and dominance.

Though the spiritually inclined will deny this fact, at the root of mankind is violence -- the overpowering of others to obtain what one wants. This is not right, nor is it the way it should be, but it is the way it is.

With this as a basis of understanding, we as martial artists must look to the refined realms of self-defense if we are ever drawn into a physical confrontation. Certainly there is the, “First-Strike, Best-Strike Philosophy.” But, more than simply hitting him before he hits you, you must refine your understanding of physical combat, as the First Strike Philosophy may not always be applicable. Therefore, you must refine your mental understandings if you hope to remain unscathed in a physical confrontation.

It is important to note, even if you are a highly trainer fighter, you can be defeated -- as has been proven time and time again. For this reason, you must never simply assume you will emerge victorious in a fight simply because you are bigger than your opponent or more highly trained. Additionally, in a competition setting you may find yourself tantalizing the audience by going round-for-round and elongating the time in the ring. But, on the streets it should never be like that. A street fight is won or lost very quickly and if you toy with or underestimate your opponent you will sooner or later get hit and that hit may debilitate you. To this end, and to elevate all of the unnecessary punch-for-punch mentality of a street fight, a true martial artist seeks the best and most rapid way to penetrate their opponent’s defenses and defeat them.

One of the best ways to achieve this is to find an opening in your opponent’s defenses. Highly trained boxers are very good at this, they look for an opening and then BAM, they punch through that hole. In many traditional martial art systems the student is not trained to be aware of these openings in their opponent’s stances, however. They are simply taught to punch, kick, throw, and if they find themselves being punched or kicked at, to forcefully block that attack. Though this style of self-defense may work in certain circumstances, it may also prove to be a person’s demise. Thus, a true martial artist must always study their opponent and then strikeout in the most rapid and effective manner possible.

The fact is, a street fight takes place in a few moments. Therefore, a long process of studying your opponent is generally not possible as is the case in the ring. To this end, you need to develop your ability to rapidly access your attacker and then deliver the most appropriate and devastating offense possible through the hole in their defenses. This is where opponent training and sparring in your school becomes essential. For in these controlled environments, once you have focused your understanding and know what you should be looking for, you can then develop the ability to see the opening and to rapidly penetrate your opponent’s defenses, delivering a powerful attack.

For each system of the fighting arts the students are trained in a specific format of techniques. Though in school practice some of them look very pretty, i.e., the throws of Hapkido and Aikido. In actual combat, however, these types of techniques virtually never work, as they are far too elaborate. To this end, it is very important that you do not fool yourself into believe that simply because your training partner allows you to throw him in the gym that on the street this same type of technique will be a viable method of self-defense.

It is a simply fact of combat, the fighting techniques that work best on the street are those that are very direct, very powerful, and very simple to unleash. Whether this is a straight punch, front kick, or joint lock, the main thing to remember is that you want to see the opening and immediately strike through that opening. Don’t wait because in street combat those openings are only there for a moment and that chance may not present itself again.

When you find that opening on your opponent and strike one of the main things that you must keep in mind is that it may not be effective. Never believe that one technique will be enough. Perhaps you did not strike hard enough, perhaps you opponent shifted his positing or moved, or perhaps your attack was blocked. The moment you realize that your attack was unsuccessful, you must immediately move and continue forward with additional defense, followed by offense. Never wait or you may not have the chance to relaunch your attack.

In the martial arts and, in fact, all fighting arts, the first thing the student must do is to master the techniques of the style they are studying. Once this has been accomplished you must then begin to study, understand, and anticipate the movements of your opponent. For what is martial art training if it is not gaining the developed knowledge to emerge successful from physical combat? To this end, never see your techniques as the sole end in physical combat. Instead, see them as a means to strikeout if you are attacked -- using them to penetrating the defenses of your opponent and emerge victorious from any confrontation.

Study the subtleties of combat.

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